Even if you can’t correctly pronounce some of these Cambodian fares, you will surely remember the taste! Whilst the ancient temples of Angkor or the great Mekong River have always been on the forefront of Cambodian tourism, the burst of flavours in its cuisine should not be missed as well. Remember to check out these fantastic Cambodian food on your next trip to this old kingdom of Khmer!
1. Fish Amok (Curried Fish)
The quintessential Cambodian dish that every traveller must try, Fish Amok is available almost anywhere throughout the country. Fillets of fried fish are added into red curry gravy made with kroeung paste, a classic ingredient in Cambodian cuisine that is made from different spices and herbs including turmeric and galangal. This is then scooped into a handmade banana leaf bowl and steamed to perfection. Topped with coconut cream, kaffir leaves, and with rice on the side, the meal is best enjoyed for dinner or lunch.
2. Kdam Chaa (Fried Crab)
Formerly overshadowed by Sihanoukville, the seaside town of Kep has recently welcomed an influx of tourists not only because of its idyllic sandy beaches, but also for its fresh crabs! There is even a market dedicated to crabs, where visitors can either buy and have them cooked at the restaurant or hotel of their choice, or select the ready-cooked Kdam Chaa that is fried with lemongrass, garlic, and its special ingredient – locally grown green peppers from the nearby town of Kampot.
3. Kuy Teav (Noodle Soup)
How could a bowl of noodles look so simple yet taste so good? The beauty of Kuy Teav lies in the delicious brew of rice vermicelli in clear pork broth, topped with veggies and a variation of beef fillet or fishball. The dish is commonly served in the morning, so chances are you would have this at your hotel’s breakfast buffet. But even if they don’t, you can easily head to the morning markets where there will surely be a stall serving it.
4. Lap Khmer (Beef Salad)
Salad as the main meal? Why not, especially when it is also filled with meaty goodness! This classic Khmer salad consists of long beans, lemongrass, bean sprouts, shallots, garlic, basil, mint, green pepper, red chillies mixed together with fish sauce, and topped with thinly-sliced beef, either raw or flash-seared. Yummy!
5. Num Pang (Cambodian Sandwich)
Much like the flavours of its Indochina neighbours Vietnam and Laos, Cambodian cuisine is also influenced by the French colonial rule. In this case, it is the classic baguette with a local twist – loaded with minced pork, fish sauce, cucumber, pork meat, and ham slices. The street stall version, simply wrapped in a piece of paper and rubber band, makes for easy food on the go. Or if you prefer to enjoy it in a more comfortable setting, head over to Nömpang Sandwich Shop in Phnom Penh where they have a wide selection of fillings, served with Coke or bubble tea on the side.
6. Chhnang Plerng (Khmer BBQ)
Don’t worry about trying to pronounce it right, as it is better known as Cambodian BBQ or Khmer BBQ around the tourist circuit in the country. There are rows of restaurants serving Chhnang Plerng around Pub Street in Siem Reap, the gateway to the historic Angkor Wat. A plate of different meats (usually chicken or beef, but may also include crocodile, frog, and sometimes even kangaroo!) and vegetables are served alongside a hot pot set for you to use. Yep, you get to cook them all on your own!
7. Num Banh Chok (Khmer Noodles)
Make your way to the local markets of Psar Thmei or Psar Kandal in Phnom Penh in the morning, where you can easily spot women with double baskets hanging on a pole across their shoulders. Your order will be made right then and there, an appetising bowl of thin rice noodles in fish-based green curry gravy with a touch of lemongrass and kaffir lime. The perfect meal to start your day!
GETTING THERE: AirAsia flies to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh from Kuala Lumpur. For lowest fares and flight info visit AirAsia.com.